The news of Jeremy Clarkson being involved in a ‘fracas’ with a producer dominated the news for a number of weeks and generated a huge amount of speculation as to whether Mr Clarkson would remain in employment. It may have come as a shock to many when the BBC last week made the decision not to renew Mr Clarkson’s contract, given that he is one of the BBC’s most successful presenters. From an employment law perspective it raises the question: how should an employer deal with this type of allegation?
The following are key points to note for an employer when dealing with allegations of serious misconduct:
- Suspension: an employer should act swiftly to begin its investigation and may wish to consider suspending the employee, particularly if the allegation is one of mistreatment of a colleague.
- Investigation: it is crucial that an employer fully investigates the alleged misconduct. This will involve taking witness statements from those involved to ensure the facts are clear. Any decision to move to a disciplinary hearing should be based on the findings of the investigation. Where possible, the person carrying out the investigation will be different to the person who later holds the disciplinary hearing.
- Disciplinary hearing: the investigation findings should be presented to an employee in advance of any disciplinary hearing and the employee should be given a reasonable period of time to prepare for the hearing. An employer should ensure that no decision is made until the disciplinary hearing has taken place and the employee has been given an opportunity to present their case. An employee is entitled to be accompanied at a disciplinary hearing by a trade union representative or a colleague.
- Appeal: all employees should be given the right to appeal against any disciplinary action. Where possible, the appeal should be heard by a more senior member of staff.
It is important that employers have policies and procedures in place which outline what is unacceptable behaviour and the procedure the employer will follow. Such procedures will normally give examples of gross misconduct, which will lead to immediate dismissal.
It is always recommended that employers take advice when dealing with serious allegations or where dismissal is being contemplated.
Click here if you wish to hear Tony McGrade on Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive speaking on this issue (click to 1 hr 18 mins):
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